Vogel got stale in Larry Legend’s world – ESPN

6 months ago Comments Off on Vogel got stale in Larry Legend’s world – ESPN

Give Larry Bird this: He’s transparent and consistent. He has long argued that coaches grow stale, and he fired himself after three seasons as the Pacers’ coach — ending in a loss to the Lakers in the 2000 Finals.

A year ago, he announced to the world that he didn’t really want Roy Hibbert on his team anymore. The league was trending small, and Bird was going to drag Indiana into the cool kids clique — even if he didn’t end up giving coach Frank Vogel the right players to make that happen.

Last week he told The Indianapolis Star he wasn’t sure about Vogel’s future but didn’t want to leave him hanging — even after a fit of coaching musical chairs left only New York, Houston and Sacramento with openings. Two of those aren’t exactly atop anyone’s “Most Appealing Jobs” list.

And so today, Vogel is somehow out of the job he held for five-plus seasons. The Pacers won 58 percent of their games under Vogel, made the playoffs every year but the season after Paul George‘s horrific leg injury and pushed Miami to the brink in back-to-back conference finals.

There is a weird dissonance swirling around coaching tenures. Bird and others talk about how players naturally start tuning out coaches if they stay too long — the Scott Skiles effect. That’s probably true in some cases, though only three players — George, Ian Mahinmi, and George Hill — remain from the 2012-13 team that took Miami the distance before burping away the series with a heap of embarrassing turnovers. Those are important players, but they are only three. Vogel also doesn’t seem like a coach who would lose the room. Players like him and he’s relentlessly positive.

But some of the same people who wring their hands about the Skiles effect talk from the other side of their mouths about the importance of continuity, especially as player contracts get shorter. Oh, what we would give for what Gregg Popovich, Rick Carlisle, and Erik Spoelstra have been empowered to build! Backing coaches through the ups and downs sends a message of organizational coherence: We don’t overreact to short-term blips, and the players don’t run the show.

Everyone pays lip service to striving for that sort of stability — everyone but Bird, apparently. The Pacers had a chance to evolve and grow with a young, dynamic coach, and they’ve punted it to hire a new voice.

Vogel was never the most adaptable coach, but that lack of adaptability birthed an identity: smashmouth basketball. The Pacers played big, with David West and Hibbert, and smothered teams with long-armed defense at every position. When teams like the Heat and Knicks went small against Indiana, the Pacers stuck to their guns. It mostly worked. It got them further than their talent level suggested they should have gotten.

Hibbert for a brief time unnerved LeBron James at the rim. It was fashionable to dismiss those Pacers as the overhyped product of a watered-down Eastern Conference, but they generally played well against the West and gave the Heat all they could handle. Hibbert has lost his way since leaving the Pacers. So has Lance Stephenson. Does Vogel get any credit for bringing out the best in them and for using Stephenson as a holdover starter running point on second units? What about the complete transformation of Mahinmi from rock-handed bozo to viable pick-and-roll dive man?

Vogel didn’t reach everyone — Evan Turner and Gerald Green bombed in Indy — but the big names who left haven’t looked the same. Among those big names: West, who lit $11 million on fire to ditch Indiana and let everyone know on the way out that he didn’t appreciate Bird throwing Hibbert under the bus.

Bird wants to play smaller and faster, with more pass-pass-pass continuity. The path there, in his view, is clear: Dan Burke, longtime Pacers defensive coordinator, can maintain an elite defense, while some scoring guru can replace Vogel and reinvent the Pacers on the other end. That could well happen, but Vogel has done enough that Bird should at least have looked at another solution: Keep Vogel and pluck an offensive-minded assistant to help the Pacers evolve. Vogel is only 42. He’s going to get better at this.

And it’s not as if Vogel was some dunderhead about offense. He made real adjustments. The Heat credited Indiana for being the first team to figure out Miami’s blitzing defense by having West slip picks, snag easy passes and survey the floor in a four-on-three:

Vogel got stale in Larry Legend’s world – ESPN

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